Design Tricks for Easy Kitchen Updates

The heart of our home is undoubtedly the kitchen.  It is where we cook, gather, do paperwork and homework.

Many homeowners are daunted by the prospect of remodeling and modernizing their kitchen because of the inevitable downtime, during which the kitchen will not be accessible for several weeks, as well as the huge cost.  Yet it is one of the best home improvement investments you can make, adding to both the value of your home and your well being.

Here are some design tips that will give you a whole new look for your kitchen with minimal disruption, waste and for half the cost.

Paint your kitchen cabinets

If you are happy with the overall layout of your kitchen but want to modernize it and change the color scheme, then consider painting your cabinets. This is especially worthwhile if the cabinets are wood stained a dark color or the room feels dark. The cabinetry in this kitchen we redesigned was previously a dark stain which made the whole room feel gloomy. Painting the perimeter cabinets a soft gray and the island cabinets a bright blue/green immediately updated and brightened the mood and style. No demo required!

European style kitchen with painted grey cabinets, Lake Forest kitchen design

Here is the BEFORE PHOTO:

kitchen remodel, repainting kitchen cabinets, kitchen design with island

Reface your kitchen cabinets

If you have old framed cabinets and want the streamlined and updated look of full overlay doors which hang flush and cover the full face of your cabinets, you can reface or change all the cabinet doors without changing the cabinet shells or boxes.  This is a larger project but again you save on land fill, the demolition cost and the mess!

Kitchen remodel with bamboo cabinetry, Chicago Area
This bamboo cabinetry has full overlay, flat panel doors creating a streamlined appearance to highlight the beautiful grain

Update your countertop

In the kitchen we redesigned featured in the first photo above, we did not change the countertop which was a saving in terms of cost and the environmental impact.  But maybe your cabinets are not the problem.  Nothing dates a kitchen more than an old laminate or corian counter top.  Natural stone, such as quartz, is very hard wearing and comes in stunning modern patterns which mimic natural stone like marble.

Top tip: Marble is generally not advisable for kitchens as it is a softer stone prone to etching. However if you love the look of marble and how it ages, then go for it but use a honed instead of a polished finish.

You can even extend a kitchen island by using the stone to create an additional work surface or counter high seating area as we did in this kitchen below.

Kitchen with quartz countertop ,bamboo cabinetry in Chicago Area
The overhang on this quartz counter top provides a breakfast bar seating area for the adjoining room. Design by TDF interiors

Here is another example where a waterfall stone top extends to the floor on both sides creating an expanded work surface and seating nook:

Waterfall countertop in kitchen remodel
Courtesy of Royals Courage

Change your lighting

Dramatic new light fixtures have been a design trend for several years. They can make a kitchen look more up to date and modern as well as improve the overall lighting.

Oversized and airy fixtures like these make a kitchen feel more spacious and will add modern styling to a tired kitchen.  Generally you need a higher ceiling than the standard 8′ but there are still great options and if the lighting is hung over an island you can go lower than normal.  Just make sure not to block your line of sight across the island.  These on trend open metal, geometric style fixtures work well.

Kitchen island in blue with large geometric open light fixtures
Courtesy of Town and Country Living magazine

Woven light fixtures are having a moment and add a comforting, organic farmhouse style element

kitchen remodel with new woven light fixtures
Courtesy of Better Homes and gardens

Consider your under cabinet lighting too.  New LED under cabinet lighting comes in narrow strips and makes for a cleaner look.  They can also offer you different color temperatures for improved functionality while cooking and mood lighting for an evening background setting.

Update your backsplash and change your tile

Old fashioned tile can be removed and updated.  For a clean streamlined look, use the same stone for the backsplash as for the countertop. This is where stones with beautiful veining can be displayed to dramatic effect.

white kitchen with marble counter, chicago designer
In this classic farmhouse style kitchen, marble is used for the counter and backsplash to add subtle organic pattern. Courtesy of MSI stone.

Subway tile remains a popular option and allows you to bring some color and texture into your kitchen. You can use tile to be creative and create a focal point.

In this kitchen we used a glazed subway tile with a watercolor effect and used a border of contrasting pencil tile and a herringbone pattern to define a bar and coffee area:

Tile design for kitchen backsplash
Be creative with your tile design and create a focal point.  Design by TDF interiors
European style kitchen design with grey painted cabinets, Chicago north shore interior designer
The unique hand made ceramic tile we selected for this kitchen gives it a timeless feeling. A custom made cabinet hood replaced the old stainless steel extractor fan, adding to the charm.

Do not forget your kitchen floor

Tile or stone can be used to make a real statement on the floor. I love these patterns that remind me of my travels.

Below, we kept the backsplash simple with a soft white subway tile so as not to upstage the floor.

Porcelanosa patterned floor tile for kitchen remodel, chicago designer
A beautiful spanish style floor tile adds character to this traditional kitchen, designed for a historic building.

I hope you feel inspired to move ahead and update your kitchen!